Health experts offer these tips to counter coronavirus-related stress

Amid the unknowns associated with COVID-19, mental health professionals want the public to know it’s normal to feel anxious and are offering advice about how to cope.

“It’s okay to say, ‘I’m afraid,'” MedStar Heath Psychiatrist Dr. Jemima Kankam said, adding that it‘s important to talk about coronavirus concerns, even if it’s just to vent.

“Sometimes people think: ‘If I talk about it, it might mean that I’m weak.’ No, it’s OK,” Kankam said, recommending it may be helpful to talk with a friend, family member, colleague, someone from your faith group or association.

“Sometimes, it takes somebody to remind us there’s another side. That the world is still there,” she advised.

How should parents talk about the pandemic with kids? Ask lots of questions, Kankam said.

“We adults sometimes have a tendency to think we know what’s in the head of our children,” Kankam said. “Don’t impose it on them.”

She said to ask questions like:

  • What do you know?
  • What are you hearing?
  • What do you think?

If children are anxious, offer balance and perspective.

“Say people are working on it. It’s good to know there’s something being done about it,” Kankam noted.

In addition, try to have fun, Kankam said. Make a game out of hand washing, let kids get on the phone with friends, talk about and do things not related to the pandemic and embrace family-time activities.

“You may have only one television – don’t binge on (coronavirus coverage) while they’re sitting there all day long and forget they also are watching it with you,” Kankam said.

If coronavirus concerns begin stressing you out, Kankam recommends taking a break.

“We have control over what we watch, what we read and how much we process,” she notes.

Take a walk, exercise, think about other things and talk with someone who reminds you other things are going on, she said. It’s also essential to eat well and get plenty of sleep.

More Coronavirus News

Signs anxiety is becoming an illness of its own suggesting you might need professional help include persistent, multi-day symptoms of:

  • Losing sleep.
  • Not wanting to eat.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Can’t think about anything but coronavirus.

For help, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 800-950-6264.

If you feel you’re in a crisis, you can text NAMI TO 741741.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-TALK (8255).

A final bit of advice from Kankam is to be kind and say thank you.

“It helps,” Kankam said. “We will get through this. The world has gotten through terrible things in the past, so let’s remember we can get through this too.”

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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